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CNN International: Gaza's Humanitarian Crisis Deepens as Health System Crumbles; U.N. Aid Groups Demand Gaza Hospitals Be Spared; U.S. Lawmakers Up Against Friday Funding Deadline. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired November 13, 2023 - 04:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and warm, welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and all around the world. I'm Max Foster in London. Bianca is off for the week, but just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM.

The collapse of Gaza's healthcare system as medical supplies dwindle and life saving equipment is shut down due to a lack of fuel. Aid agencies are demanding international action. We'll speak with one organization about their efforts in the region.

Shut down looms in Washington with only days left to reach a funding deal, U.S. lawmakers race to keep the government open.

And Iceland braces for potential disaster. A state of emergency now in effect as the nation faces the threat of a volcanic eruption.

ANNOUNCER: Live from London, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo.

FOSTER: Well, it is Monday, November the 13th, 9:00 a.m. here in London and 11:00 a.m. in Gaza, where the medical situation is growing even more dire by the hour as Israel steps up its war against Hamas. Israeli forces say they went deeper into Gaza City on Sunday, reaching the outskirts of the Al-Shati refugee camp and conducting raids in multiple areas. The IDF says it's arrested 20 alleged Hamas members, including some accused of taking part in the October 7th attacks on Israel.

Meanwhile, multiple hospitals in Gaza are closing due to air strikes and lack of fuel. Health officials and aid agencies say patient staff and thousands of displaced civilians are trapped inside Gaza's biggest hospital, Al-Shifa, due to fighting nearby. CNN's Nada Bashir has more on the desperate situation in Gaza hospitals and a warning some of the video you're about to see is graphic.


NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): These are the sounds of the final gasp from Gaza's collapsing healthcare system. Medical staff in Gaza City, working under near relentless Israeli bombardment for over a month. But now this chorus of frantic voices, seen here working under torchlight, tells its own gut-wrenching story. The El-Quds Hospital, the second largest in Gaza, has now collapsed.

The hospital no longer operational, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. But these scenes are all too familiar across the besieged Gaza Strip, the vast majority of hospitals here are already completely out of service. The Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah says, and those remaining now on a cliff edge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There is a direct injury in the head internal bleeding. And we can't do surgeries. No surgeries, no oxygen, no electricity. We work manually. We are using a manual resuscitator. It is a clear injury, it needs an urgent surgery, a life saving one. He is less than a year old.

BASHIR (voice-over): Remarkably, this baby survived, but his father, who was in the very same building when an Israeli airstrike hit, did not. At Gaza's largest hospital, Al-Shifa, officials say newborn babies had to be moved, and that at least three babies in the neonatal unit died after a generator powered incubators was damaged in an Israeli strike.

CNN has reached out to the Israeli military for comment. The IDF regularly says it is targeting Hamas, but doctors here say the hospital is now completely surrounded.

MOHAMED KANDIL, DOCTOR: The situation overall is difficult, according to our colleague there, there is no water, no electricity, they cannot communicate between each other. There is a lot of targeting around the hospital.

BASHIR (voice-over): Under a near constant barrage of air strikes, it is impossible for both patients and staff to safely evacuate. Doctors are overwhelmed. Morgues now long beyond capacity. And with communications frequently cut off, contact between medical teams on the ground and with the outside world is growing increasingly difficult.

Hospital officials say thousands of displaced civilians are still thought to be in the compound, taking shelter in what once was thought to be a sanctuary in the midst of this seemingly unending nightmare.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We thought the hospital was a safe place, but it wasn't. If we had stayed another 5 minutes, we would have been killed. They started to bomb us and we ran away from Al-Shifa.

BASHIR (voice-over): The Israeli military says it is now enabling passage from three hospitals in northern Gaza with an additional route said to have been opened to allow civilians to evacuate southwards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is another form of torture we have about 6 kilometers to go, no less. She got a stroke that caused her brain damage. She can't speak and is paralyzed.

BASHIR (voice-over): But the United Nations itself has raised doubts over the so-called safe zones outlined by Israel's warning that nowhere inside Gaza is safe for civilians anymore. And for those too injured, too sick, evacuation is impossible. Many doctors on the ground vowing to stay beside their patients no matter what.

Nada Bashir, CNN in Jerusalem.


FOSTER: Clare Sebastian, following the very latest. So what's the situation in the hospital this morning?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So Max, there are disputed accounts about what's actually happening at Al-Shifa. The Hamas controlled health ministry said over the weekend that staff and patients were unable to actually evacuate from the hospital because of the ongoing fighting and that it was under complete siege, in their words.

Now as now the IDF says it has opened an evacuation corridor. It did so over the weekend specifically to get people out of that hospital. A specific route, taking them to the main route, heading to the south. It's unclear at this point how many people actually use that. What the situation was on that route.

But look, there is still fighting going on in this area. The IDF said this morning that the battle, as the intense battle as they called it, is taking place in the surrounding areas of Al-Shifa, not at the hospital itself.

But it is really hard to get even to the latest information on this. The health ministry, the Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah said over the weekend, they were unable to update their casualty numbers because they could not reach people at these hospitals in northern Gaza. We heard something similar from the World Health Organization, who said it's lost communications with its contacts at Al-Shifa.

So I think that that really gives you a sense of the situation in there, but I think it's very clear, certainly from the report coming out, that this situation with the health system in Gaza, which has been building for multiple weeks now, is really coming to a head and it is really ramping up the pressure on Israel.

FOSTER: What's the government response? Presumably that they are providing corridors for safe passage.

SEBASTIAN: Yes, they've been doing this now for the best part of the week. We've been seeing this evacuation route. These hours long pauses every day. They are saying that they're specifically looking to get people out. Not only of Al-Shifa, but several other hospitals in northern Gaza.

And they continue to repeat, one, that they believe that that the Hamas headquarters is actually situated under the Al-Shifa Hospital, but also that they are doing absolutely everything they can, they say to get civilians out. Take a listen to Prime Minister Netanyahu on this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Well, we've called to evacuate all the patients from that hospital. And in fact, 100 or so have already been evacuated. I've called for field hospitals. And the French President has sent a floating hospital ship. I've asked the Emirates to send a field hospital. They have. And other countries have done the same. I expect the U.N. to build this. So there's no reason why we just can't take the patients out of there, instead of letting Hamas use it as a command Center for terrorism, for the rockets that they fire against Israel, for the terror tunnels that they use to kill Israeli civilians.

We're obviously treading carefully when it comes to hospitals. But we're also not going to give immunity to the terrorists. And so far, even though Hamas has tried to prevent the civilians from leaving, hundreds of thousands have left, sometimes having to go through Hamas gun points and gun fire that wants to keep them in harm's way.


SEBASTIAN: So as I said, Max, everything that happens here is disputed. There are different accounts from both sides. This is an information war and one particular case in point, Israel said that over the weekend its forces hand delivered fuel in jerrycans. They published video, they say that shows this of its soldiers delivering fuel to the Al-Shifa, for hospital. And they then claimed and published an audio recording they say proves this, that Hamas prevented the fuel from getting where it needed to go.

Now the director of the Al-Shifa hospital told CNN that, yes, the offer was made, but it was only enough fuel for 30 minutes of running those generators and that his staff were too scared to go out because of the Israeli tanks in the area. So you can see that while the situation is clearly at breaking point in that hospital, the World Health Organization says it's no longer functioning as a hospital. What's happening around it is still quite unclear.

FOSTER: And the ceasefire debate goes on.

SEBASTIAN: The ceasefire debate goes on. And look, we saw over the weekend I was there at the protest in London that the opposition is just unrelenting when it comes to the sort of growing public and political sense that, while no one disputes the horrific attacks of October 7th, that, you know, many are starting to coalesce around the idea that the response may have gone too far. Prime Minister Netanyahu, though, is saying still, that no ceasefire without the release of those hostages, nothing more than what they're doing at the moment with these hours' long pauses.


FOSTER: Clare, thank you.

Several of the world's top aid agencies are demanding urgent action to end the ongoing attacks on hospitals, in particular in Gaza. The U.N. Population Fund, UNICEF and the World Health Organization issued a joint statement on Sunday saying patients, healthcare workers and refugees alike need to be protected. The World Health Organization has recorded at least 137 attacks on health facilities in Gaza, killing more than 500 people.

Their statement reads in part: The world cannot stand silent whilst hospitals, which should be safe havens, are transformed into scenes of death, devastation and despair. Decisive international action is needed now to secure an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and prevent further loss of life and preserve what's left of the healthcare system in Gaza.

Joining me now from Geneva, Switzerland is UNICEF spokesperson James Elder. Thank you for joining us, James. As Claire was just saying, very difficult to with comms in Gaza at the moment, but what have you heard today in terms of the main hospitals?

JAMES ELDER, SPOKESPERSON, UNICEF: Yes, incredibly difficult, Max. I mean, we're fortunate in some ways and terrified in others because UNICEF, of course, still has staff in Gaza. And you hear everything from their own fear in trying to keep their children alive, to those pregnant women, who as one said very clearly, I just want to collapse. But if I collapse, I feel my children will with me now.

Al-Shifa, of course, the hospital you've been talking about. That's the largest neonatal hospital in Gaza. All reports and as your correspondent rightly said, mixed messages come everywhere in this -- in this what is now an information war as well. It certainly does seem as time continues to go on and you have premature babies, not in incubators, not where they need to be. They will continue to die. We know that two or three have died. We hear unconfirmed reports that now maybe that number is twice as many.

We simply don't know, Max. But what we do know, and anyone who's had a premature baby knows, you want two things there. You want an incubator and a doctor. Ideally you also want a mother for kangaroo care. The mothers had to flee to safety. The doctors can't work. They don't have power. They don't have lights. And the incubators are gone. This is a lethal situation for those prem babies.

FOSTER: What do you make then of Prime Minister Netanyahu's comment that, you know, there are alternative facilities being set up for medical care and there is a way of those patients getting out of the hospital and being OK?

ELDER: I think what everyone wants is for, for hospitals to be safe across Gaza. Now, if there's a sense of an evacuation that requires several things. Firstly, requires safety and we haven't seen that. We see images of people who should be in hospital, wounds of war and shrapnel wounds, you know, walking or being wheelchaired through the through the streets. We know you can't move a baby from A to B unless they're in a premature baby at least, Max, unless they're again. In an ambulance or with an incubator. And without these things, and quite simply, those things don't exist right now, what seems to exist on mass is continued attacks. Then without those things, this will continue to cost children's lives. And the reports are we are well into the thousands.

So as UNICEF and so many others, Max, have said from day one, humanitarian ceasefire. Let's get a humanitarian ceasefire. Let's pull back from the brink. Let's at the very least save these premature babies and so many other others, the hundreds of children reportedly killed and injured every day. And whilst we have a humanitarian ceasefire, can we get these boys and girls, Israeli boys and girls who have been somewhere in this hellscape, I imagine in tunnels somewhere in Gaza. Get them back to their families.

So for a humanitarian organization, I think for a lot of lot of people out there, a humanitarian ceasefire allows everyone, particularly children, a chance to survive, a chance to overcome some trauma. And a chance for the adults, those in power, to hopefully step back from more horrors.

FOSTER: Israel vowing not to allow a ceasefire until the hostages are released, also until they've destroyed Hamas. And I know you're not a political organization, but they are arguing that Hamas is headquartered under the Al-Shifa Hospital. So how can you separate the patients, the staff from any of those who may be hidden amongst them? I know it's a difficult question for you to answer. But that's what many people will be asking when you say we need safe passage at least.

ELDER: Well, yes, obviously. I mean, no one seems to have this intelligence and you know as a non-political organization, as a non partisan organization, a neutral party, I would put my own -- my own colleagues at risk if I was to second guess. But what we do know is international humanitarian law, Max, we have that. And that is, that it's a breach of international humanitarian law for attacks on hospitals.


Now if there was to be found, there are combatants in those, then you get to proportionality. OK, you get to proportionality. And right now, of course, if you've got hospitals that are unable to function and doctors working with torches and children with wounds of war without anesthetics and children, premature babies without incubators, then one would worry that the proportionality, the risk to those civilians is great.

Now these things will have to be determined at some later point, which is critical for the world -- the world to move on. But right now, we think the only way to protect those children. Those children in that hospital, those children in other parts under regular bombardment, and those children, those Israeli children, is for this humanitarian ceasefire.

FOSTER: OK, James Elder, I really appreciate your time today. Thank you for joining us from Geneva.

Now an Egyptian border official says more than 800 foreign nationals were evacuated from Gaza through the Rafah border crossing on Sunday. It's the first-time foreign nationals have been allowed into Egypt since Thursday. And the most have passed through Rafah in a single day since the evacuations began. Nine Palestinians needing medical treatment also arrived in Egypt on Sunday. They include children with cancer and residents injured in the conflict, according to an Egyptian official. Here's one of those patients.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We were transferred here to Egypt to get treated. God willing. Hopefully, I'll get artificial limbs implanted so I can walk like before. God willing, I will return to Gaza. One has nothing but his country anyway. Whatever God has written for us will happen. I am satisfied with whatever God has in store. Thank God.


FOSTER: Well, by CNN's count, this brings the total number of Palestinians transferred to Egypt for medical treatment to almost 130, just a tiny fraction of those wounded throughout Gaza.

Breaking news here in the U.K., a government reshuffle, the top line being the Press Association reporting that Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been sacked by the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. She's been under fire in recent days, accused of stocking tensions after accusing police of showing bias in their treatment of pro-Palestinian in London. It's one of a reshuffle, one part of a reshuffle of Sunak's government.

The Tories saying on social media to stay tuned for more details. In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, the Conservatives posted an image with the word "reshuffle" and Rishi Sunak, strengthening his team. So pretty major hint.

Chris Christie, now the first Republican presidential candidate in the U.S. to visit Israel since the Hamas attacks. Still to come, what he plans to do about the devastation he saw during his trip.

And the clock is ticking. With just five days left for the U.S. Congress to avoid a devastating government shutdown. The new House Speaker has put forth an unusual plan to keep things running. We'll have the details on that coming up.



FOSTER: Chris Christie promises to share the atrocities he saw after visiting Israel. He's the first Republican presidential candidate in the U.S. to go to Israel since the Hamas attacks on October the 7th. Christie met with families of hostages and toured a kibbutz where he said he could, quote, smell the death still a month later. He insists the U.S. must continue giving Israel what it needs to defeat Hamas.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The most important thing is for us to provide financial assistance and military hardware to the Israelis so they can do what they need to do in Gaza regarding the terrorists who attacked them and killed over 1,200 of their civilians.


FOSTER: Well, back at home, Christie's Republican rival, Tim Scott, says he's spending -- suspending rather his campaign for president. We're told his announcement on Sunday night caught many of his aides and donors by surprise, even though he was facing an uphill battle against Donald Trump, the clear front runner in the party. Scott says he won't endorse another candidate right now. He now plans to serve out his term in Congress, which runs until 2028.

Members of Congress are working against the clock, with a Friday deadline to keep the government up and running. The new speaker of the House is pushing an unconventional plan that provides staggered funding into the New Year. But it remains to be seen if lawmakers will approve it. CNN's Manu Raju has more.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Speaker Mike Johnson, in his first test as speaker unveiling a plan to keep the government open with just a handful of days before the end of the week deadline. But already facing fire from his right flank. Who are members of the House Freedom Caucus, in particular, are concerned about the lack of spending cuts in this plan.

Democrats didn't want any spending cuts and said they would vote against it. However, Democrats are concerned that it does not have aid to Israel and aid to Ukraine, and they are criticizing the unconventional approach taken by Speaker Johnson. Some federal agencies would be funded up until mid January, others until early February. This is an unusual type of approach, but one in which Johnson believes can help achieve their legislative objectives.

But nevertheless, the question is how many folks on the right will push back, will try to push him out because of the lack of spending cuts? And whether they will actually try to push him out. Recall that just not too long ago, Kevin McCarthy, the former speaker, lost his job because in major part here because he advanced a bill to keep the government open with Democratic support, that did not have spending cuts. I asked McCarthy himself whether or not he is concerned or whether he believes Johnson's job could be at risk by taking a similar approach.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): You know, look, you get a honeymoon and they can't go through it again. I mean, think about how long it took last time. So do you think they would do that again?

RAJU: So even if he goes and relies on Democratic votes, the way you had to do it, you think that he would be safe and not be pushed out of the speakership.

MCCARTHY: Oh yes, I don't think anybody can make a motion to vacate for the rest of its term. I think, I think he's safe regardless. RAJU: And Democrats are still weighing exactly how they will proceed.


They're still watching how Republicans are dealing with this, and I'm told from House Democratic sources, it's still uncertain whether they will carry this across the finish line and how many votes Johnson will ultimately need from Democrats. But there is hardly any time left as Senate Democratic leaders are signaled that they could be open to this. The White House has criticized this approach. House Democrats are remaining mum and a lot of questions as we head into yet another week of shutdown fears on Capitol Hill.

Manu Raju, CNN, Washington.


FOSTER: The mayor of New York City will continue to cooperate with federal authorities, according to his chief counsel. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York are investigating Eric Adams campaign finances. He's not being charged with any wrongdoing.

On Sunday, the "New York Times" reported that authorities are also investigating whether Adams pressured officials to approve a high-rise building housing the Turkish Consulate General despite safety concerns. Adam said in a statement on Friday that he and all members of his staff would cooperate with investigators and that he has, quote, nothing to hide.

U.S. President Joe Biden and the Emir of Qatar held a critical phone call on Sunday, revealing new information about the hostages held by Hamas. That's just ahead.

And Chinese President Xi Jinping will soon travel to the U.S., where he's set to meet with President Biden and look at what's at stake for the two leaders, next on CNN.